Why has Rise of the Ronin caught my attention? Because finishing Elden Ring was like the end of a long-term relationship. After spending so much time plundering and prospering in the Lands Between – my pre-New Game+ exploits having clocked in at well over 200 hours – letting go of FromSoftware’s blockbuster action RPG wasn’t easy. FIFA 22 offered a degree of casual reprieve in its wake, a place to relax and unwind and delight in beating opponents with cheeky last-minute goals online, but the buzz wasn’t the same. And so I threw myself into the mindless slaughter of Sniper Elite 5, returned to Sable for a wistful wander, and, at one point, even considered tackling my shameful backlog. Heaven forbid.
Truth be told, in the immediate aftermath of Elden Ring, I wasn’t ready for another all-encompassing sandbox action role-player. I was in a state of flux, of ambient decompression, similar to how we move from the most mentally-demanding prestige dramas to our favorite comfort comedies, such as The Office or Parks and Recreation. Sure, moving on from our favorite video games isn’t easy – that is, until another grabs us by the eyeballs and pulls us straight back in. Enter PS5 exclusive Rise of the Ronin, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo’s latest samurai action RPG, revealed during September’s State of Play showcase.
Sword you out
An Edo-age timeline. Era-specific music. A watchful warrior overlooking a bustling town composed of iconic traditional Japanese architecture. And then an explosion of overblown melee combat, masterful swordsmanship, streaks of spilled blood, fire, guns, gliders, and a man smirking as three others prepare to behead him. The Rise of the Ronin reveal trailer laid it all out there. “Your time has come,” said the gruff-voiced narrator. “Rise as one.” Which, to me, all sounds and looks absolutely perfect.
With the success of Nioh in 2017, and its direct successor Nioh 2 in 2020, Team Ninja has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Responsible for the enduring Dead or Alive beat ’em up dynasty, as well as the long-serving Ninja Gaiden hack and slash adventure series, the developer has been around the block more than once – which only makes this period of success for the studio feel all the more exciting. Rise of the Ronin is seven years in the making, says Team Ninja president Famihiko Yasuda in this PlayStation Blog post (opens in new tab), and harnesses everything the studio has learned in the action RPG space to date.
According to Yasuda, all of this takes the shape of a combat-focused affair that unfolds in Japan at the end of the 300-year-long Edo period, during “a time of great change”. Oppressive rulers are heading for civil war with western invaders, the Tokugawa Shogunate and anti-Shogunate factions are at loggerheads, while deadly diseases mark an underlying and constant threat at ground level. “Here in this time of mayhem, you embody a Ronin character, a warrior bound to no master and free to make choices of its own,” Yasuda adds. “Rise of the Ronin is a new Team Ninja experience that will immerse you in an historically inspired world while bringing together its renowned combat action with Katanas and the likes, with new firearm weaponry that depicts the unique personality of its time period.”
Rise of the Ronin’s action looks wonderful, and I’m especially intrigued to see how it balances its sword and gunplay mechanics in the heat of combat. Team Ninja games, like their FromSoftware cousins, are known for being super-challenging – so while I suspect there’s more to firearms here than, say, Bloodborne’s parry system, I doubt the game will ever let us be Indiana Jones-style OP from range. Moreover, away from its fisticuffs, the world of Rise of Ronin also looks stunning, with Ghost of Tsushima-esque horseback expeditions and Breath of the Wild-aping glider flight. By teasing lush and sprawling jungles, lazy seaside towns beneath purple skies, and rural villages swimming in mud, there appears to be plenty of variety in setting terms, and, simply, the more I watch Rise of Ronin’s reveal trailer, the more I want it.
Given Team Ninja is also gearing up for the release of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty – set in Three Kingdoms-era China – it would appear our action RPG needs are being well-met across the board. As I tend to do with all FromSoftware games, I will undoubtedly return to Elden Ring at some point down the line. But, in the meantime, it seems Team Ninja is doing everything that it can to help me get over my most recent breakup, filling the void the Lands Between has carved within me. Due at some point in 2024, we’re still a ways away from PS5 exclusive Rise of the Ronin, but I already can’t wait to see more from my new love in the coming weeks and months.
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